Simpson runs for mayor

By Ged Cann

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Mayoral candidate Chris Simpson.
Mayoral candidate Chris Simpson.

Former Hamilton City Council economic advisor Chris Simpson has joined the mayoral race - and the new contender believes before the city can say where it needs to go it needs to reevaluate where it is.

He said Hamilton was no longer an agricultural service town, as some would presume.

"We make up 40 per cent of the Waikato economy and we're nearly an $8 billion economy," said Mr Simpson.

"We are actually a quite strong thinking, research, science and innovation technology centre.

"It surprises many people when you look at the facts and figures. About 39 per cent of employment is around that technological innovation sector."

He said agri-research was still a big part, but other large contributors included education and the health sector. "Where I fit in is very much around making sure we understand what a city is from both a work and lifestyle perspective and what we need from that," he said.

"A big part of that is making sure we are open, collaborative and inclusive and take ratepayers - because ultimately it's their money - on that journey."

Mr Simpson said his recent conversations with residents showed many were beginning to pick up on the city's evolving identity.

Mr Simpson does not believe Hamiltonians understand what the city is in terms of its economy.

"It comes back to Hamilton and what does it look like over the next nine years, and I don't think we have that understanding as a city in terms of what makes up its economy."

Mr Simpson said he was prepared to stand for the top job for a minimum of three terms.

He said when residents were presented with the statistics the correct direction became more obvious, and the key would be forming a Council that builds to the vision.

These statistics include estimated population increases of around 70 people per week, or just over 3600 per year.

"You always build to your strengths and to who you are, and I don't think we've had that understanding up till now. You are approaching the size of city that can accommodate The Base, Chartwell and a central city.

"In nine years' time you are going to have another 40,000 people - the size of another city.

"It's that urbanisation as we become a city of scale and size - I'm more focused on what that city looks like, getting that right and working with the right people to get that smart city."

He said the central city already had 20,000 workers, a number which is growing, but only 3000 people live in it.

"The aim for a vision is getting more people living here and enjoying what a central city does."

He said a large part of the development of the central city included making developers aware of the freedom granted in the District Plan and advertising the lack of developer contributions imposed for central city developments.

"We need to promote that a lot more heavily and give that confidence."

Mr Simpson's background knowledge of the Hamilton economy comes from three years working as a economic advisor for Hamilton City Council - a role he said he resigned from three months ago to run for office in the upcoming local body election. He has not held a public governance role before, but said he had handled governance roles in the private sector.

His experience with politics to Wellington, where he held the position of director of the Government Research Unit in Parliament.

On the subject of core services and what a council should be involved in Mr Simpson brings it back to the Local Government Act.

"It's around providing the amenities, the likes of theatres and parks, but it's also about infrastructure and making sure that's all managed as well."

He is a supporter of the River Plan, questioning only some of the priorities.

The planned Ferrybank Development also gets the tick, but Simpson said after discussions with the business community he believes Council should focus on it being more mixed use.

"Let people choose where they want to be and invest and Council becomes a fast-follower around that.

"It comes back to sequencing so we have the right people around that table," he said.

- Hamilton News

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